Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Agricultural Biotechnology

With increase in population and concern about the quality of food, the bio-agriculture has gained focus in the recent past in India. The farmers in India are looking at the GM seeds, biofertilizers, biopesticides from which they can expect more return on their investments and also increase productivity. The farmers are now getting a premium for the organic produce. With this now they are able to export their produce at much higher price. Lot of research initiatives are also being undertaken in the field to explore new technologies and new tie ups and joint ventures are being set up and are getting approvals from government for exploiting the technologies for the betterment of farmers and obtaining decent returns

GM Seeds
The challenge of producing more food grains to feed the ever increasing population of India that has already crossed one billion mark with less resources has bought companies like Mahyco, Monsanto, Syngenta, ProAgro, Advanta to invest in GM crops. It was in 2002 a joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto called Mahyco- Monsanto Biotech Ltd got the green signal from the Government of India for the commercial production and sale of Bt cotton (Bollgard) in six southern states of India.

A lot of awareness campaigns have to be conducted to reach out to the farmers to brief them about the benefits of using seeds that are resistant to pests, diseases, herbicides, and crops which are tolerant to drought, cold, salinity and other harsh environments. This will bring in confidence among the farmers as well as the industry people.

Biofertilizers, biopesticides
In addition to GM seeds, the farmers are also looking at biofertilizers, biopesticides to get more benefits. Now the farmers are using formulations based on Bt, viruses like NPV, and GV, as well as neem-based pesticides. To meet the increasing demand, the industry has to scale up investments in biofertilizers and biopesticides. Conservative estimate shows that the 10 percent saving through the use of biofertilizers will result in an annual saving of 1.094 million tons of nitrogenous fertilizers costing around Rs 550 crore.

Looking at the opportunity in biofuel sector, the central government has taken an initiative to promote this sector in a big way. The total consumption of ethanol-blended petrol is expected to be 4.6 million tons per year. This sector not only helps sugarcane farmers, as cane is used as raw material for production of ethanol, but also helps in building up the oil security apart from benefiting the environment. It can save foreign exchange to the tune of Rs 80,000 crore, as India imports about 70 percent of its requirement of crude oil.

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